Thursday 23rd June, 2005

 

Rain falls on Cedros protest

 
 
 
 
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Cedros residents brave the rain yesterday to protest the construction of an aluminium smelter in their area.

Photo: Shirley Bahadur

BY ASHA JAVEED

Even as rain fell the residents of Cedros gathered at Woodford Square yesterday. It was their second attempt to draw attention to their cause: to protest the construction of an aluminium smelter in their area.

About 400 people, clad in red T-shirts and sporting placards, which some used to shelter from the rain, and armed with umbrellas, listened as the residents called on the Government to hear their plea and consider the negative impact the location of a smelter would have on the small fishing community.

Professor Julian Kenny, a guest speaker at the gathering, said he hoped it would make an impact because there was still time for the process to be stopped.

Kenny said the group could take legal action if they found a smart lawyer which could halt the process at every stage- from the terms of reference to getting a certificate of environment clearance.

He said change could happen if there was “real people power” but was quick to add that he was not inciting a riot because he did not want to be jailed.

Julian accused the Government of not implementing the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) because it wanted to profit from the smelter’s location.

“This means that workers, citizens and the environment continue to remain without protection. Why? As I have suggested elsewhere, investors, foreign and local, have vested interests in cheap labour, cheap energy and weak and un-enforced environmental, health and safety standards. People must come first,” he said.

Kenny also accused the Government of bypassing Parliament in giving approval to foreign investors.

He explained that according to Town and Country Planning Act Ch 35:01, which has been in force for the last 40 years, and the National Physical Development Plan of 1984 makes provision for certain areas to be set aside for agriculture and conservation.

The areas proposed for the development of industrial estates on the south western peninsula all fall within areas designated for “intensive and moderately intensive agriculture and other agriculture.

“These designations may not be altered except by submission of revised plans for the approval of Parliament,” he said.

Julian said the T&T continued to be overly dependent on food imports when good agricultural land was being cleared for industrial purposes.

“At the same time prime agricultural lands that constitute less than 20 per cent of available land continue to be alienated and the agricultural sector of the economy withers and the poor and dispossessed suffer the continuing food inflation costs that in this year have risen to the alarming figure of 27 per cent,” he said.

Alcoa representatives have held two town meetings with the community so far.

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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